It’s time for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Marvin gives participants prompts to use in their weekly posting. This week’s prompts are:
- Blogophilia week 12.5 – “When I was just a child”
Bonus Points:(Hard, 2pts): Incorporate gauché as a feeling or an anime character(Easy, 1pt): Include the word “Placebo
This is another vampire morsel, a story about a character from my Amaranthine series that, for one reason or another, never got to say much. As an especially snifty thing I am slowly revising these and publishing them on Smashwords as freebie reads. Eventually I’m planning to bundle them altogether into a single volume, but that’s something in the distant future, as there are several tales to tell!
(You can find Patrick sort of in Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts. This story takes place roughly two years before Shades of Gray starts – and six months after the Michael story)
CONTENT WARNING: Language, mild sexual content and some violence.
“I said I’m a vampire.”
Patrick stared at his brother. He looked from his wild eyes to his fangs, and rejected the image. “Mikey, look, you’ve been gone six months, then pop up on New Year’s day with this stupid story?“
“Dammit, Pat! Why don’t you believe me? Look at this!” He gestured wildly to his teeth.
Patrick drew a final puff from his cigarette and dropped it to the snow, where it died with a hiss. “I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve done to yourself, but there’s no such thing as vampires.”
“What the fuck? That’s it? I’ve spent the last month trying to get away so I could come find you, and that’s all you’ve got?”
“I don’t know what you want from me.”
“How about some help, you’re my goddamn brother!”
Patrick’s eyes moved from his agitated sibling to the brick building. Only one square of light shone back; his own living room window. “Look, if you need a place to crash, you can sleep on my couch for a few days, but I don’t want tangled up in your shit.”
“I don’t need a place! I have to sleep with Claudius and the others! What I need is free of them!”
Patrick sighed and absently tugged out another cigarette. Dilated pupils, agitated delusions; it was obvious Michael was tweaking on something, and whoever the fuck this Claudius was had probably given it to him. “Mikey, if you’re involved in some kind of gang-”
Michael roared and tackled his brother to the ground. Patrick threw up an arm and Michael ripped into it, tearing through his leather jacket and into his skin. Patrick screamed as burning pain shot through him. It coursed up his arm and slammed into his brain. His only thought was escape; he had to make it stop. He kicked and bashed Michael in the head with his free hand. His brother held on, like a bulldog with a steak, and Patrick hit him again and again.
Michael suddenly let go and fell back, snarling. His lips were pulled back from his bloody teeth and his eyes burned with rage.
Patrick used his good arm to scramble backwards, like a crab. When he was clear of Michael he pulled himself to his feet. He glanced quickly to his bleeding arm, then back to his brother. His voice shook as he demanded, “What the hell?”
Michael stood slowly and licked his lips. He took a cautious step forward and Patrick jumped back, one hand up. “Stay away from me!”
The fire in Michael’s eyes died and he looked repentant. “Pat, I’m sorry-”
“No! I don’t wanna hear it! Just get the fuck outta here” Michael didn’t move, so he shouted, “I said go!” and lunged at him. With a yelp, Michael took off, moving much too fast.
Patrick staggered backwards and slouched against the building. He raised a trembling hand to his face and wiped at his damp brow.
Mikey is fucked up.
Patrick left his ruined jacket draped over the couch and cloistered himself in the tiny bathroom. He turned the sink on and cleaned his arm the best he could. The skin and meat were torn, as if an animal had been at him.
An animal. Yeah, that was what Michael had been like. He sure as fuck hadn’t seemed human. But drugs could do that. They could turn you into something unrecognizable.
But they don’t do that to your teeth.
Patrick closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the cold mirror. He didn’t know what Michael was, or what he was mixed up in, but he knew one thing: he needed something to drink. About fifty gallons worth.
“Man, you look like shit.”
Patrick looked up through blurry eyes and slowly came to terms with the voice and face. “Hey, Anthony. What’s going on?”
“I should be asking you that. Where the hell have you been?” He sniffed the alcohol scented front room and frowned. “I stopped at the gas station and they said they hadn’t seen you for days. You’re fired.”
Patrick sat up, panic in his eyes. “Fuck. What day is it?”
“Wednesday, man. They said you were scheduled for the last three nights.”
“Fuck!” Patrick dropped back to the floor. “You think I could talk ‘em into cuttin’ me some slack?”
“I doubt it.” Anthony nudged an empty bottle with his toes. “Did you know Mikey’s back in town? He wants to talk to you.”
Patrick threw an arm over his eyes to block the sunlight that fizzed through the window. “Yeah. He was here the other night.”
“So you find out where he’s been?” Anthony pointed to the wad of crusty, stained gauze taped over Patrick’s wound. “What’s that?”
“He was all fucked up.” Patrick paused and then added reluctantly, “He fuckin’ bit me, man. He said he was sorry afterwards but…”
“Shit. I just saw him last night. He seemed kinda out there, but he didn’t get violent or anything. He just said he wanted to see you.” Silence fell and Anthony moved to the couch. He knocked aside a discarded fast food bag and an empty bottle so he could take their place. “You should prolly look him up. You know he gets in trouble by himself.”
“Yeah, I know, it’s always been that way. When I was just child I had to always look out for him, but I can’t spend forever taking care of him. And what’s to stop him from attacking me again or something?”
“Meet him somewhere public, man. Like McD’s. He can’t pull any shit there. The manager will call the cops.”
Patrick lowered his arm and stared at the crusty bandages. Had it been a week? Maybe more. He should change those. “I dunno. I can’t get ahold of him, anyway.”
Anthony fished in his pocket and produced a cell phone. “He left a number. I can call him and tell him you wanna meet.”
Though it felt like a bad idea, Patrick nodded and, as Anthony scrolled through his contacts, he staggered to his feet and to the bathroom.
Better try to look alive.
It was just after seven when Patrick ordered his food and sat down at a corner table, wearing his leather jacket. He’d repaired the sleeve with electrical tape. It was crude but effective, and at a glance it was hardly noticeable.
Michael appeared a few minutes later, hands in his jacket pockets and the hood pulled up to conceal his face. He took a seat across from Patrick and the brothers stared at one another.
He doesn’t look right, Patrick told himself. Something’s wrong with him.
“I’m a vampire.”
There’s no such thing as vampires.
Michael cleared his throat. “How’s your arm?”
Patrick’s gaze moved to his fries. They were more comfortable to look at; more familiar. “Eh, it’s a’right. Almost healed.”
Michael nodded and then nearly exploded, “I’m sorry about the other night, alright? You just pissed me off so bad!”
“Just forget it.” Patrick hazarded a glance at his brother and as quickly looked to his half eaten burger. “So where the hell have you been?”
“I told you, with Claudius and his coven.”
Patrick sighed. This was pointless. It’s the same shit all over again. “And who the fuck is Claudius?”
Michael stared at him as if he’d dropped from the sky. “He’s that dick I was mowing the yard for, remember? Owns that huge mansion?”
Patrick flinched in surprise. “Yeah, I remember. The master dude, or whatever, that you wanted to rob.”
“Yeah, that’s him.” Michael rubbed the back of his neck. “I found them all sleeping in the basement in their coffins – coffins, man! They’re all vampires; him, that prick Troy, the hot chicks. I told Claudius that if he didn’t pay me off I’d tell everyone their secret and…” he trailed off and spread his hands. “So they made me into one of them.”
God, he’s fucking nuts. Patrick didn’t want to admit it, but there was nothing he could do. Michael needed to detox and then see a shrink. A really, really good shrink. Maybe he had brain damage. Or maybe that Claudius had brain washed him or something. Either way, the best thing he could do right now was get the hell out of there before something happened.
Michael stared at the half eaten food with longing in his eyes. “You gonna eat that?”
“Nah, you can have it.” Patrick pushed it towards him, but Michael shoved it back.
“I can’t eat food anymore,” his voice dropped to a whisper. “Just blood, now.”
That was it. “I hate to bug out on you, but I gotta get up tomorrow and look for a job, and it’s a long walk home from here, so I better get going.” He stood quickly and fumbled with the tray. “I’ll, uh, I’ll see you soon though, huh?”
Michael stood too quickly; one minute he was in the chair and the next he was standing beside Patrick, the tray in his hands. “I’ll walk with ya. You have no idea what’s roaming around out there, man.”
A shiver raced down Patrick’s spine. I’m not afraid of what’s out there, just what’s in here.
Tiny snowflakes drifted from the heavy black sky. The moist air turned the streetlights to bloated globes of light. Patrick walked at a brisk pace, his eyes on his brother. Michael chatted continually about his “coven”; about the other vampires, about some hotty named Arowenia, “She’s beautiful , man, but she’s like fourteen or fifteen. I mean, she was. Now she’s like hundreds of years old. So is it sick to check her out? Is it like pedophilia, or is it like a granny fetish?”
Patrick’s answers were monosyllable grunts. He clutched his coat to him, as if it would protect him from the lunacy.
They turned down a narrow street and had gone a handful of steps when a man appeared in front of them, as though he’d just formed from the shadows.
“Holy shit!” Patrick leapt back, his blue eyes like saucers. The man before him was tall with long, ebony hair and dark eyes. Dressed all in black, it was only the pale skin of his face that stood out from the shadows.
Michael bristled, his teeth drawn back from his lips. “Who the hell are you?”
The man surveyed them a moment. When his eyes landed on Patrick he found he couldn’t move. He felt trapped, pinned down. It was as if the guy was staring through his eyes and into the back of his skull. Beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and his watery knees quivered.
The man broke eye contact and Patrick felt himself sag. He stumbled back a step before he caught himself. His heart pounded in his ears. There was something about this guy that said he’d kill them and not lose any sleep over it. All of Patrick’s instincts told him to run; run now.
The man studied Michael a moment, then said, “An interesting question. More importantly who are you?”
“Like that’s any of your business.”
Patrick gaped at his brother’s attitude. Was he trying to get them killed?
“You’re with Claudius.” It wasn’t a question, but stated as a fact. The kind of fact that suddenly made some of Michael’s delusions a little more plausible.
Michael glared back. “And you’re not.”
“No,” the man drawled. “I’m not.” He gave them both another once over. “And you don’t want to be.”
Patrick stirred. “How do you know that?”
Instead of answering, Michael commented coldly, “You must think you’re a mind reader.”
“I am.” And that’s when the man smiled. It was a slow, full smile, not particularly evil, though not exactly kind, either. It wasn’t the smile itself that made Patrick’s heart stop, it was the teeth. Like Michael, he had fangs.
The smile disappeared and the man met Michael’s eyes and held them. Patrick got the impression that he was trying to determine if they were viable, or useful. His decision apparently reached, he said, “Perhaps we’ll meet again.” Then, he seemed to disappear back into the darkness.
It was a full minute before Patrick could breathe. “Who the fuck was that?”
“I don’t know. Another vampire.” Michael glanced at his brother. “I told you there was all kinds of scary shit running around here.”
You’re not kidding.
Patrick couldn’t reconcile what he’d seen, and what Michael had told him, with the reality he knew. One of them was wrong. Either there were monsters or there weren’t. Unfortunately, he was starting to think that the monsters were real and that everything he’d known up to then was the illusion.
It was a terrifying idea.
It was five days before his brother came back. The snow fell hard outside and Patrick huddled on the couch, a nearly empty bottle of Jack clutched tightly in his hand.
Michael wasn’t wearing a coat. He brushed the melting snowflakes off of his t-shirt and flopped on the other end of the sofa. “I didn’t think I was ever gonna get away.”
“Yeah,” Patrick muttered around a mouthful of whiskey. The span of a heartbeat passed, then he asked suddenly, “Let’s say all this vampire crap is real. Is there a cure or something? “
“No, man. Once you’re a vampire, you’re that way forever. There’s no going back.”
Patrick asked the question he’d been dreading, “So what do you want me to do?”
“I need you to help me get outta there. They all treat me like shit, like I’m some kind of servant. I have to wait on them all and they call me names, and that son of a bitch Troy knocks me around because he knows if I fight back, they’ll all gang up on me. It’s bullshit.”
Patrick closed his eyes. Even in his inebriated state there was too much truth in his brother’s eyes. “Then leave.”
“You don’t get it! I can’t just leave. They’ll hunt me down and kill me!”
“Then go to the police or something,” he muttered hopelessly.
“Oh, great fuckin’ idea, Pat! I’ll go to the cops and say, ‘Hey! I’m a vampire!’ and if they don’t kill me then the other vampires will!”
Patrick flung the bottle across the room and shouted, “Then I don’t know what the hell you want from me!”
“Help me kill them.”
Patrick fell back against the couch. I can’t deal with this. “Are you serious?”
“Yes! Look, you can sneak in during the daytime and go down to the basement and-”
“And what?” Patrick asked sarcastically. “Pound stakes through their hearts? That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!”
“Do you have a better one?”
Patrick started to say no, and then he suddenly remembered the guy they’d run into the other night. The scary black haired guy. Another vampire. That was what they needed. “What about that vampire guy we ran into? Maybe we could ask him for help?”
Michael rolled his eyes. “Now who has the dumb ass idea. We don’t even know where to look for him!”
“I don’t think we need to,” Patrick said quietly. “I think he’ll find us.” The idea did nothing to cheer him.
The park was eerie in the dark. The hulking jungle gym sat back in the shadows like a crouched monster waiting to spring. The swing set cast long shadows, like tendrils of evil that snaked towards Patrick and Michael as they leaned on the teeter-totter housing.
Michael’s shoulders suddenly went stiff. Patrick followed his gaze. At first he saw only darkness and then, just as he had last time, the guy seemed to materialize from the darkness, as if he was a piece of the night.
“You’re looking for me?”
Michael watched the newcomer through narrowed eyes. “You’re the mind reader, you tell me.”
Without hesitation, he asked sharply, “Why should I help you?”
Michael grabbed his brother’s arm. “Come on, Pat. I told you this was a fuckin’ waste of time.”
The space of a heartbeat passed, and the mysterious man replied, “I didn’t say I wouldn’t help you, I only asked why I should.”
Patrick nodded hopefully. If the vampires were half as terrifying as this guy, there was no way they could deal with them alone. They needed someone who could help them and, though he couldn’t say exactly why, he was sure this was the guy for the job. “Let’s give him a chance.”
Michael glared past his brother to the man in question. “Why? We don’t even know who he is!”
“Does it matter?” Patrick asked desperately.
“He knows who we are!”
The man all but rolled his eyes, “My name is Jorick, though it may be a moot point. Exactly what do you want from me?”
Patrick answered quickly, “He needs help to get away from Claudius.”
Jorick studied them silently. The moments stretched thin and taut, heavy with the oppressive winter atmosphere. Finally, he said, “Let me speak to my associate. We might be able to do something.” He started to walk away, then stopped and looked back. “Return here in a week.”
And then he disappeared.
A week later found Patrick back at the park, huddled in his leather jacket. Michael paced nearby. A field of cigarette butts was strewn on the ground between them, and Michael was working on another.
“You’re sure this is a good idea?”
“It’s as good as any,” Patrick muttered.
It’s all a bad idea. A bad, crazy idea.
Jorick appeared, walking from the shadows as usual, with a second man. The new comer had blondish hair that made Patrick think of a lion. It wasn’t just the hair; there was something feline about him, though whether it was his face or his movements, Patrick wasn’t sure.
They came to stop in front of them. The tension thickened as the four sized one another up, and then Jorick spoke, “This is Oren.” He gestured to the brothers. “Patrick and Michael.”
Oren nodded, his attention on Michael, “You’re members of Claudius’ coven?”
“No, I am. Pat’s not.”
Oren frowned. “Then what does he have to do with anything?”
“It’s his brother,” Jorick answered.
Patrick shivered. How did he know? Oren turned to him and met his eyes. It was the same as it had been with Jorick; as if the guy was looking straight into his brain.
It ended suddenly and Oren looked back to Michael. “Do you know who I am?”
“One would assume you’d know who you were dealing with before you asked for help,” Jorick commented. Michael glowered back and Jorick went on. “Whether you are aware of it or not, Oren’s coven is at war with Claudius.”
Coven. Did that mean that Oren was a vampire?
Understanding flickered over Michael’s face. “You’re the guy who he’s been fighting with forever?”
“Not forever,” Oren bit back.
“It has been ongoing for some time,” Jorick countered, and then dismissed it with a gesture. “Regardless, I have spoken with Oren and we’re willing to help you – for a price.” Michael started and Jorick held up a hand. “It’s only fair. You want us to do something for you, then you should do something for us.”
The logic felt sound, so Patrick nodded eagerly. Michael, however, was still sour. “Like what?”
“Spy,” Jorick said flatly.
Oren bristled. “I wouldn’t call it spying, but rather information gathering.”
“For how long?”
Jorick rubbed his chin. “A few months, perhaps? That should be enough time for Oren to finally wrap this up.” His dark eyes slid sideways to his friend and then back again. “After which time he will offer you sanctuary – both of you, if necessary.”
Patrick’s eyes went wide with surprise. “Me? Oh, I’ll be a’right. They’re not after me.”
“Not yet,” Oren agreed. “But I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Michael scowled. “I was hoping to get away from them now, not in a few months!”
Oren started to answer, but Jorick silenced him. “It’s up to you. Leave now, on your own, and deal with the consequences alone, or wait a few months and have the guarantee of protection. It’s of no consequence to us, either way.”
“If I don’t agree then who will you get to spy?” Michael demanded.
Jorick shrugged. “Someone else. Claudius has an extensive coven. If we decide we need a spy, then we will recruit one. You can always fall back on your original plan.” He glanced at Patrick. “I’m sure you can eventually wear your brother down and he’ll agree to storm the basement. Of course, it’s sunlight that is the vampire’s enemy, not just daytime, so once he’s down in the dark, lightless cellar it won’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Maybe he’ll get lucky and actually kill a couple before they rip his head off.”
Cold terror filtered through Patrick and settled in his stomach. For a moment he could almost smell the damp, dark cellar in his imagination; feel the blood pounding in his ears and know that his death was coming. And it would. Jorick was right. Michel would hound and push and wheedle until he’d finally agree just to get him off his back and then…
“No!” he cried suddenly. “Jorick’s right, Mikey. This is the best way.”
“For who?” his brother demanded. “Pat, you don’t know what they’re like! I can’t take months of this!”
Jorick interrupted before Patrick could answer. “It’s something for you to think about. I’ll find you when you’ve made your final decisions.” He motioned to Oren. “Come. We’ve made the offer, it’s up to them, now.”
Patrick watched with horror as his only hope disappeared into the darkness.
When they’d gone, Michael demanded, “Can you believe that?”
Patrick turned on him. “Yes, I can! God dammit, Mikey, what did you expect? That they’d do you a favor for nothing? Who the hell do you think you are?”
He didn’t wait for the answer before he stormed back to his apartment.
“Come, on,” Michael whined. “Just go out and look around. Please?”
“No!” Though it had been over a week, Jorick’s words still rang in his ears. “I’m sure you can eventually wear your brother down and he’ll agree to storm the basement.”
“Dammit, Mikey, I’m not going to die for this!”
“I’m not asking you to die! I’m just asking you to go check the place out and see what you think. If you say it’s too hard, then okay, enough said. I’ll drop it and we’ll come up with a better plan.”
“Then come up with a better plan now!” Patrick paced a worried circle around his living room, waving an envelope. “I have enough shit to deal with right now! I have to figure out how the fuck to pay the electric bill before they shut it off!”
“It’s January, they can’t shut it off.” Patrick glared at him, and suddenly Michael’s demeanor changed. A sly gleam settled in his eyes. “Claudius is rich.”
Patrick waved it away. “I think I’ve heard this shit before.”
“No, you haven’t. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’ve got enough money to pay all your bills; rent, electric, you name it.”
“And how are you going to do that?”
“That’s what brothers are for.” He offered him a winning smile; though the fangs ruined the illusion and made Patrick long for a drink of something; anything. “Brothers stick together and help each other out.”
“No, Mikey. I’m happy to help you most of the time, but this is ridiculous! For Christ’s sake, you’re one of them and they scare you! What the fuck am I supposed to do against them?”
“I already told you.”
“And that Jorick guy told you what would happen! He said they’d kill me!”
“And you’re gonna take his word for it?” The silence was his answer. “Fine! Forget it! Just let me down, like everyone else! Excuse me for thinking I could trust you!”
His brother slammed out the door before he could finish. Patrick stared at the door, and in a fit of fury flung the electric bill towards it. “Oh, fuck you!”
Michael knocked on the door the next evening. When Patrick answered it, he shoved a bulging envelope in his hand, then abruptly turned for the hallway.
Patrick thumbed the envelop open and stared at the contents: cash. Lots of cash. He flipped through the bills in disbelief, then looked up in time to see his brother starting down the stairs.
“Mikey! What’s this?”
Michael looked over his shoulder, “I told you I’d help you out. We’re brothers, remember?”
“But where the hell did you get it?”
Michael shook his head sadly and then made a point of turning his back and walking down the stairs.
Patrick called after him, then swore under his breath and followed. He took the stairs two at a time and landed in the lobby. There was no one there. He ran to the door and flung himself out it and onto the sidewalk, but again there was no sign of his brother.
He looked both ways, then fell back against the brick building. He looked to the envelope still clutched in his hand. There was a lot of money in there. Maybe enough to live for a few months. That would give him time to find a new job.
But Michael didn’t do it to help him out. He knew his brother was just trying to guilt him.
So why is it working?
The sun was high when Patrick called Anthony.
“You need a ride where?”
“Look, it’s some huge house in the middle of nowhere. Michael’s staying there.” He reeled off the directions. “So can you take me or not?”
“Yeah, I guess. I’m at Twila’s now. Let me get done here then I’ll be over, a’ight?”
“Cool. Just kinda hurry, huh? I gotta stop and pay the electric bill and don’t wanna be out there after dark.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, man.” Twila giggled in the background and Patrick knew what they were doing. “Catch you later.”
Patrick tossed the cellphone onto the couch next to the envelope. Blood money. That’s what it was, only it for his own blood. Just like the donation centers he hit up. The difference is they just wanted a little bit. Michael wants all of it.
It was after four before Anthony showed up, a Cheshire cat grin on his face.
“Where the fuck have you been?”
“Hey man, there’s more to life than bein’ your taxi. Twila was feelin’ lonely.” His grin grew. “Twice.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I don’t wanna hear it.” Patrick slung his coat on. “Let’s just get this shit over with.”
He dropped the bill through the after hours slot, then repeated the directions to the mansion. It was either his memory, or else the directions themselves, but something wasn’t very clear and they ended up circling back roads for over an hour, listening to Placebo CDs.
As they passed a peeling barn for the third time, Anthony turned the music down to ask, “You’re sure there’s really a mansion out here? Twila said she’s heard stories about one with some kinda stone wall, but she ain’t never found it. Maybe it’s just an urban legend?”
“Was he sober?”
It was a fair question. “I think so. I don’t know.” Patrick slouched in the seat and covered his eyes. Reality and the monster-reality were crashing together and he wasn’t sure what was real again.
Anthony took a chance and steered the car down a pot holed road they’d previously ignored. “We can keep looking for awhile. But I’m gonna need some cash for gas.”
Patrick nodded and leaned his forehead against the window. His stomach knotted in fear, though he wasn’t sure from what. Was he scared of not finding the place and learning that all the vampire shit had just been his imagination? Or was he more afraid of it turning out to be real?
“Holy shit! Look at that!”
Patrick’s stomach tightened as he saw the stone wall and the set of wrought iron gates. So it is real…
Anthony parked in front of the gates. They climbed out and to find they were locked. “Now what?”
Patrick swallowed down a lump of terror. “Just, you know, kinda wait here for me. I’ll, uh, I’ll just go in.”
“By yourself?” Anthony frowned and shook the gate. “You sure that’s a good idea?”
“Yeah, it’s cool.”
No it’s not! Let’s get the fuck back in the car and get out of here!
“Okay then. I’ll hang around for an hour or two.” Anthony slouched back to the car and paused, one hand on the door and his eyes on his friend. “You’re sure about this?”
“Yeah, sure.” Uncertainty must have flashed in his eyes because Anthony’s frown deepened. Patrick thought about reassuring him, but knew it was useless.
He climbed the wrought iron gates and dropped down on the other side of them. Anthony was still waiting by the car, and Patrick looked back to give him a final wave before he turned and trudged towards the house.
No, mansion. That was a good description for it. Made of stone, it was decorated with statues, like something from a creepy horror movie. Shiny windows reflected back the early evening sun and reminded Patrick how little time he had.
He walked around the perimeter of the house first, checking windows and nudging the foundation. There were no basement windows, in fact there was no sign that there even was a basement. But Michael had been right about one thing; it was quiet. Way too quiet.
Patrick made his way to a side door and tested it. As he’d expected, it was locked. Despite the early February chill, beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he pulled a metal shim from his pocket and slipped it between the door and the frame. He worked it back and forth a few times, then leaned on the door.
The door swung inwards and he caught it before it could bang back into the wall. He mopped at his forehead and shoved the shim back in his pocket.
What the fuck am I doing?
It was a question he didn’t have an answer for. He stole softly through the house, his eyes growing bigger and bigger as he moved from one outlandish room to another. It was like a mansion from the historical PBS shows his mother watched; chandeliers, red carpet, even a mirrored ballroom. But nowhere was there a door to the basement.
Maybe Michael is crazy, he thought with relief. Maybe I just broke into some eccentric millionaire’s house. Fuck, I better get out of here!
With that thought, he turned, to find a thin, mustached man staring at him. Patrick yelped and then, something crashed down on his head and everything went black.
Patrick opened his eyes. The room was bright and blurry. He tried to block it with his hands, but they wouldn’t work. He tugged harder and discovered that they were tied behind his back.
What the fuck?
Panicked, he tried to move his legs, only to find they were similarly restrained. He lay on the floor in a smallish room. The only furniture was a desk, some assorted chairs and a couple of display cabinets. Patrick’s eyes roamed from object to object, fluttering fearfully over the swords that hung on the walls.
Oh my God. What kind of freaks are they?
The door opened and a bald guy wearing a pullover and sunglasses walked through. If Patrick had to guess, he’d have said he was a repo man. Behind him was a kid of maybe fifteen or sixteen. He had long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and was dressed in a costume that matched the house; ruffled shirt, brocade vest and tight fitting trousers.
The blonde sat in a chair behind the desk and crossed his legs, his eyes on Patrick. Something glinted in their depths that made Patrick’s blood run cold. He was sure it was death he saw shining in them.
Silence stretched while they stared at one another. Patrick waited for the terrifying mental crush that he’d encountered with Jorick and Oren, but it didn’t come. Maybe these guys weren’t vampires? Maybe-
“So,” the blonde drawled suddenly. “An intruder?”
The bald guy grinned, flashing a pair of fangs. “Theo found him roaming around the house.”
Shit. They are. They’re fucking vampires. Oh God! Oh fuck!
The blonde tapped restless fingers on his leg. “And what, exactly, are you doing here?”
Patrick tried to speak, but he couldn’t. It was just as well, he had nothing to say.
“Troy, make him talk.”
“Yes, Claudius – Master!” The bald guy practically leapt forward and grabbed Patrick by the back of his neck. He hauled him up and shook him so that his head flopped back and forth.
Patrick gave a low, horrified moan-like yell, and Claudius shouted, “Enough!”
Troy dropped him back to the floor. With no hands to catch himself, he slammed face first into the floor.
“What were you doing here?”
Patrick lifted his head and spit out a mouthful of blood. Oh God. “I-I was just looking around.”
Pain radiated out from his nose. Was it broken? He thought it was bleeding but he wasn’t sure. Maybe it was just his mouth.
Patrick shook his head violently. “No, no! I was – my – my brother-” he broke off.
“Your brother?” Claudius looked suddenly interested. “Who is your brother?”
Patrick swallowed another mouthful of blood. “M-Michael.”
Claudius’ blue eyes glowed briefly. “Really? I had no idea that Michael had a brother.” He looked to his bald lackey. “Did you?”
“Nope,” Troy said quickly. “He never mentioned him.”
“So you were here looking for your brother, Michael, perhaps?” Patrick choked on the answer and Claudius jabbed him with a pointy toe. “Answer me!”
Patrick felt it suddenly; the pressure of someone behind his eyes. He looked up sharply to see Troy smirk and readied for Claudius’ anger at the lie. But Troy kept the truth to himself. “Should we kill him?”
Claudius leaned back in the chair and drummed his fingers on his leg again. “No,” he said slowly. “Not yet. Call Michael in here.”
“Yes, Master.” Troy bowed quickly and disappeared out the door.
Claudius studied him through heavy lidded eyes. “How convenient of you to show up when I’m having a party. Though you’re hardly dressed for the occasion. How gauche.”
Troy reappeared, hauling Michael behind him. Michael stopped just inside the room, panicked eyes going from Patrick to Claudius.
“Is this your brother?” Claudius demanded.
Michael looked at him one more time; met his eyes, pale blue looking into pale blue, terror meeting terror, and then he looked away. “No. I don’t know who he is.”
Patrick choked and Claudius smiled; a fanged, horrifying smile.
“In that case, you won’t mind if I feed on him.”
Patrick held back a scream as Troy released his captive and moved toward him. Free, Michael bolted for the door, but Claudius barked, “Stay!”
Michael froze on the threshold, his face pale and his shaking hands gripping the door frame. “I-I don’t really need-”
“I want you to watch,” Claudius purred. He motioned to Patrick again and Troy hauled him upright, setting him on his feet. With one hand, he tugged the leather jacket opened and grabbed a fist full of Patrick’s t-shirt. The material ripped noisily, revealing a swath of pale chest and stomach.
Claudius snapped his fingers. “I can’t feed on him from here!”
Troy dragged him closer and Patrick struggled. He was no match for the stronger vampire, who shoved him into Claudius’ lap. Patrick froze, his eyes locked with Claudius’. Though he looked young, at least ten years younger than Patrick, the emerald depths screamed a story of ages come and gone. Patrick felt the full crush of the centuries and he whimpered.
Claudius’s lips drew back from his teeth, like a slow arousal and then he struck. Patrick screamed as fangs pierced his chest, right above his nipple. The pain faded, only to return with double the force. It burned, white hot and searing, like he imagined branding felt.
The room wavered and he tried to concentrate on his brother. Michael stood back against the wall, his eyes tightly closed and his hands fists at his side. Patrick was conscious of a voice screaming, “Michael!”, but he wasn’t sure if it was his or someone else’s.
The pain increased and his head throbbed with it. He writhed, his every nerve on fire. He couldn’t take any more! God kill me! Make it end! Please!
As if on command it stopped, like slamming into a brick wall. He was suddenly aware of himself. He lay limply across Claudius’ lap, his skin covered in a sheen of sweat, the young vampire’s mouth still locked onto him.
“Stop!” Michael repeated. He stood across the room, his shaking fists clenched and his face twisted. “Just – just stop! Yes, he’s my brother, all right!”
Claudius broke the connection and leaned up. Patrick looked at Claudius’ bloody face and then looked away as quickly.
Claudius licked his lips slowly, and asked, “Then what should we do with your brother? Should we kill him? Or… “ An idea blossomed in his deep green eyes. “No. No, we should keep him, shouldn’t we?”
Michael made a strangled noise in his throat and Claudius nodded to himself. “Yes, I believe that is exactly what we’ll do. After all, a vampire may have human agents. Though I don’t believe we need anymore of them here. I have heard of those who have humans – marked humans – and allow them to live on their own, so long as they remember who their master is. I wonder, could you remember? Or would you rather die?”
“You could turn him, too,” Troy suggested.
“No, then we’d have the two of them here, making trouble. I don’t want this one on equal terms.” He looked at Michael. “I’ll let you decide. Should I kill your brother or let him live?”
Patrick struggled but Claudius tightened his hold. A dot of blood was on his chin and, as if suddenly aware of it, Claudius’ tongue darted out to clean it away.
Michael looked wildly from one to the other. Patrick could almost hear his panicked thoughts, and he shook his head hard, though he wasn’t sure what it meant. He didn’t know what decision he hoped for, so how could his brother?
Michael sagged. “Let him live.”
Claudius gave a single nod, then he turned back to Patrick. His eyes moved over the expanse of naked skin and then, without warning, he bit Patrick catty-corner to the ragged wound. Patrick shouted, but it lasted only a moment.
It was a command and Troy handed his master a pocket knife, open and ready. Patrick whimpered as Claudius poised it over his skin, right under the new bite mark, then cut what looked like a crude half moon shape.
“There.” Claudius tossed the knife to Troy, who licked the blade. “You’re properly marked.” Disdainfully, he knocked Patrick to the floor, where he landed like a horrified bag of potatoes. “You belong to me, now. I suggest you remember it, or your brother’s immortal life will be a very short one.”
He stepped over Patrick and stopped at the door, his attention on Michael. “And I suggest you remember who your master is, lest your very mortal brother come to harm.” Then with a smirk, he called to Troy, “See that our guest is shown out.”
Claudius strode from the room, and Troy cheerfully scooped Patrick up. “Don’t worry, boy, we’ll take care of you.” He followed his words with a gruff laugh that made Patrick’s stomach turn.
Wordlessly, Troy carried Patrick out of the house and towards the gates. The sun was long gone and the night sky spread above them; cold and unforgiving.
A large stone fountain was in the middle of the driveway, and Troy stopped on the other side of it. He dropped Patrick roughly to the ground and then used his pocket knife to cut the ropes that bound his wrists and ankles. Patrick sat up and flexed his limbs. Purple bruises blossomed where the rope had cut into him. He opened his ruined shirt and dabbed at his still bleeding chest. He could see the teeth marks, see where Claudius had-
Troy’s rough laugh cut into his thoughts and he looked up sharply to see the bald vampire gazing down at him. His eyes shone with a mixture of cruelty and amusement and something else. Something Patrick recognized but didn’t want to think about.
He scrambled to his feet. His knees buckled and he caught himself on the fountain.
“What’s wrong?” Troy asked. “You looked scared, little boy.” He traced Patrick’s jaw with his finger and Patrick jerked away. Troy moved closer, so that his breath was in Patrick’s face. His whisper was husky, “Are you scared?”
“Fuck you! I’m not a little boy!” Patrick stumbled backwards, but his shaking legs betrayed him. Troy caught him and pulled him to him, roughly. Patrick fought, but he was too weak, and his struggles only made the vampire laugh.
“Now, now, be a good boy. We don’t want the master to hear, do we?” Patrick kicked hard, but it had even less effect than is earlier efforts.
Troy’s eyes skimmed over the open shirt and the bloody, exposed skin. A smile twisted over his lips and he murmured something, then he struck. His fangs sliced through Claudius’s first bite and Patrick cried out. His body went stiff, prepared for the onslaught.
It didn’t come.
Instead, it was like being touched, very slowly, all over. Instead of pain, it was pleasure. Patrick struggled against it. He looked down; saw the top of Troy’s bald head, saw his hand splayed out against his own pale skin. Somehow this new sensation was worse than the pain had been; sicker.
It intensified. Patrick tried to hold back the moan but it escaped against his will. The sensations crashed through him like ocean waves, one after another, pounding against his consciousness. He could taste the darkness that threatened to engulf him. It tasted like cherries, like alcohol and sex. It was the flavor of a hot summer night, of a party in Anthony’s backyard where the girls were drunk and slick-
A horn honked. At the sound the illusion world rippled. Troy growled low in his throat and bit harder, and then, he moaned and his body convulsed.
He released Patrick and let him fall to the cold grass. Patrick dragged himself away on the backs of his arms, too weak and confused to stand.
Troy wiped at his mouth with a shaking hand, then his gaze swept to his victim. Something in his expression made Patrick’s stomach turn and his cheeks flush. “You better get out of here, little boy, while you have the chance. And don’t even think about mentioning this to anyone. No one will believe you, and if they do, they’re not going to care.”
Troy turned and strode back towards the house. The horn sounded again and Patrick realized what it must be: Anthony.
“I’m coming!” he called weakly. He tried to shake off the clinging cobwebs of – what? Was it fear? horror? No. He knew what it was, and it made him sick.
He crawled towards the wall and used the gate to pull himself to his feet. He could see Anthony’s car parked on the other side; headlights on, motor running. The driver’s door opened and Anthony climbed out. He ran to the gate and tugged it open. Patrick stumbled and he caught him.
“Holy fuck! Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Patrick assured him. He straightened and lurched towards the car. His stomach heaved, and he had to stop and throw up.
Anthony drew back, his face wrinkled in disgust. “You drunk or something? You look like shit and your nose is bleeding. Maybe you should go to the hospital.”
Patrick wiped at his face with the back of his hand. “No. I just – I just wanna go home.”
“Yes!” Patrick rounded on him, suddenly furious. “Just fucking take me home, all right?”
“Hey, look, whatever.” Anthony backed away, hands in the air. “Just don’t flip out on me.”
“I’m not –“ he paused and lowered his voice. “I’m not gonna flip out. I just want the fuck outta here, all right?”
He pulled the door open and collapsed in the passenger seat, holding his coat closed.
I can’t fucking deal with this.
Anthony tried to pry out of him what had happened. When he met silence, he talked too cheerfully about himself. Patrick leaned his forehead against the window and watched the town flash by it. He nodded to Anthony’s words, though he didn’t really listen to them.
“I almost gave up on ya. I went home for awhile, then Twila said that was shitty. But you did say an hour. You didn’t say nothing about hanging out until, like, midnight. Then I thought about Michael and the way everything with him ends up in a big fuckin’ mess and thought maybe Twila was right and I better come back and, well, there you were-”
They passed the park and, for just a second, Patrick thought he saw someone by the jungle gym.
Anthony slammed the brakes and the car squealed to a stop. “Shit, what’s wrong? You gonna puke again?”
Patrick threw the door open and leaned out, eyes searching the darkness. “Is that you?” he shouted. “Are you there?”
Anthony craned his neck. “Um… who are you yelling at?”
Patrick climbed out of the car and stumbled towards the park, clutching his coat closed with one hand. “Are you there?” he shouted again.
He turned back to see Anthony’s worried face, peering out from the car. “Just go. I’ll see you later.”
“You want me to leave you at the park like this?”
“That’s what I said!” Patrick waved one arm wildly. “Go!”
“Whatever. It’s your funeral.” Anthony pulled the door closed and took off, leaving a fading stream of music and exhaust behind.
Patrick turned back to the park and lurched towards the jungle gym. As he drew closer he saw Jorick step from the darkness, his face grim. Patrick stumbled and fell to his knees. His stomach twisted and he fought to hold it down; he had nothing left to throw up, anyway.
He could feel Jorick’s eyes on him, probing, seeking. Hot tears stung the back of Patrick’s eyes and for a sick, wild moment he hoped to hell Jorick saw it; saw everything. “What are they?” he whispered. “What in the fuck are they?”
Jorick’s voice was deep and somehow reassuring, despite his words. “You already know the answer. They’re vampires, the same as I am. The same as your brother.”
“No.” Patrick choked and spit in the snow. “Michael’s not like them.”
A moment’s silence passed, and then Jorick said quietly, “Some are crueler than others. You should go home, rest, eat something. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“You’re going to kill him?”
Jorick blinked in surprise. “Who? Claudius?”
Patrick nodded. “And Troy. You and that Oren guy, you’re going to kill them?”
“I imagine so.”
Patrick nodded again. “And if Michael and I help you, you can kill them sooner?”
Jorick hesitated. “I suppose so.”
Patrick gathered his strength and forced himself to his feet. He clutched the jungle gym; the cold metal bit into his hand. “Then we’ll help you. So long as you kill those fucking sons of bitches we’ll do anything you want.” He met Jorick’s surprised eyes with his own tortured gaze. “Promise you’ll fucking kill them.”
“We’ll kill them.”
Patrick nodded and leaned against the jungle gym. That was right. They’d kill them.
And if they don’t, I will.
I mentioned somewhere that Patrick wants his own sequel novella, well he sure gave it a damn good try here. I finally cut him off, but he wants to keep going. I don’t know why he thinks he is so important, but he does. Or maybe it’s some of that author indulgence that wants one. Hard to tell. Anyway, I am tempted to finish this up and put it up as a novella.
Next up is Sarah, and then Troy. I am kinda squeamish about him, now. I always knew he was a bastard, but he’s apparently a bit sicker than I thought and not sure how much of that I want to do. Anyway, then there’s just Velnya and the first collection is finished. Yay! Fun!